Florence and the Machine’s debut album Lungs is a celebration of where stories and songs originate from, between two lungs. While most of us take the air flowing through us for granted, Florence Welch has harnessed the power of her voice to captivate audiences around the world waiting in anticipation for what she has to say.
Lungs is full of hits made famous from television and movie exposure. “Dog Days Are Over” became an anthem for anyone breaking free from a lethargic pattern to more exciting days. In the demo available on the bonus disc, it sounds as if Florence Welch’s voice outshines the capabilities of the small recording studio, but the raw intensity of the singer clearly stands out. With a versatile band and a team of English producers, Florence Welch has the right musical environment to let her voice soar and in doing so introduces Florence and the Machine to the world.
“Cosmic Love,” another hit from the album, explores a lost relationship on an intergalactic stage. Her powerhouse vocals make the song feel like the very cosmos is her theater as she deals with the loss of a significant partner. There are countless love and heartbreak songs out there, but what differentiates “Cosmic Love” is how confidently her enchanting voice transports the listener to a faraway place.
Florence Welch’s lungs are the main draw of the band, but she is not alone on stage. Joining her is longtime collaborator Isabella “Machine” Summers. The nickname originates from her technical ability with electronic music, making her the supportive backbone of the band. The backdrop to which Florence’s voice can shine is all a result of Christopher Lloyd Hayden on the drums, Rob Ackroyd on the guitar, Tom Monger on the angelic harp, and Isabella Machine on the keyboard, percussion, and additional drumming. This collaboration is clearly evident in “Drumming Song,” which rabidly pounds at the heartbeat-setting instrument that pulls at the listener’s primal instincts. The band’s collaboration continually raises the tempo before rolling back, all the while building up Welch’s voice through a harmonious frenzy.
The beauty of the album is underscored by a healthy dose of venom with songs including, “Kiss With A Fist,” “Girl With One Eye,” and “My Boy Builds Coffins”. Tales of abuse, revenge, and courting death that show this beautiful journey is not all star-lit skies and barefoot fields. “Kiss With A Fist” opens with, “You hit me once/ I hit you back/ You gave a kick /I gave a slap/ You smashed a plate over my head/ Then I set fire to our bed.” She does not turn the other check or run away, instead she returns fire and one-ups her partner in a fashion similar to the “Chicago Way” discussed in The Untouchables. In “Girl With One Eye,” she is the aggressor, enacting revenge on a pretty little face interfering with her life. Later she sings longingly for a boy in the coffin trade, an ever-profitable craft always in demand. He acts as a stand-in for the Grim Reaper and serves as a reminder to everyone that death is always waiting.
An album with only high notes would seem dull without a sprinkling of malice throughout. Like any good story, the album is balanced with contrasting harmonies that blend seamlessly with one another as they tug on our hopes for the future, petty jealousies of the present, and the hard lessons learned from getting here in the first place.
Florence and the Machine have a lot to celebrate. In the ten years since they originally released Lungs, their success has grown along with their loyal fan base. They do not strive for singles and instead focus on producing reliably good albums every few years. Their songs deal with love and living to the fullest, all the while interspersing a few stories for the shadows throughout. As the band’s success has grown, so have their capabilities with immense orchestras backing up the gorgeous voice emanating from a pair of lungs. Florence and the Machine continue to explore the power of a great singer bolstered by talented bandmates with their music captivating the world’s attention.